Friday, April 26, 2019

What Saudi Arabia and the United States Have in Common

Updated August 2019

Let's open this posting by looking at a press release from the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) which you can find here and here:

The execution of these Saudi nationals was ratified by royal decree granted by King Salman.  According to AP, the 37 people beheaded for terrorism crimes were mostly Shiite, the Islamic sect that is the religion of Iran as opposed to Wahhabism, a puritanical form of Sunni Islam that is practiced in Saudi Arabia.  This is the largest mass execution of Shiites in the history of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and it also marked the largest number of executions in a single day since January 2, 2016 when the Kingdom executed 47 people for terrorism-related crimes.

From Reprieve, a United Kingdom-based human rights and justice organization, three of the men executed were juveniles (under the age of 18 when the alleged crimes were committed) as shown here:

"Abdulkarim al-Hawaj was charged with participating in demonstrations, incitement via social media and preparing banners with anti-state slogans. He was beaten, tortured with electricity and chained with his hands above his head until he ‘confessed’ to terrorism offences.

Mujtaba al-Sweikat was arrested at King Fahd International Airport, on his way to begin his studies at Western Michigan University. He was severely beaten all over his body, including the soles of his feet, and convicted on the basis of a confession extracted through torture.

Salman Qureish was arrested shortly after his 18th birthday, accused of crimes that took place when he was a juvenile. He was denied basic legal rights and sentenced to death in a mass trial, despite repeated interventions on his behalf by the United Nations."

Under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) of 1966, juveniles who are under the age of 18 at the time of the commitment of a crime are exempt from the death penalty as shown in Article 6(5):

'Sentence of death shall not be imposed for crimes committed by persons below eighteen years of age and shall not be carried out on pregnant women."

Interestingly, Saudi Arabia has neither signed nor acceded to this international law, a rare exception to the 172 nations that have acceded to or ratified the ICCPR.  It is also interesting to note that the United States has far from a clean track record when it comes to the executions of juveniles as shown on this list:

For your information, the United States ratified the ICCPR on June 8, 1992.  The United States also declined to sign a United Nations resolution calling for a moratorium on the use of the death penalty with the ultimate goal of abolishing its use on December 18, 2018, in contrast to 117 nations that voted in favour of the resolution as shown here:

According to Amnesty International, the executed men were convicted after sham trials that violated international fair trial standards because they relied on confessions extracted through the use of torture.  One of the executed men was beaten to the point where he lost hearing in one ear and another was beaten while blindfolded, forced to stand in stress positions and deprived of sleep.

Here is a graphic showing the number of people executed in Saudi Arabia since 2013:

Of the 149 executions in 2018, 74 were Saudi citizens while the rest were foreign nationals, 22 percent of which were Pakistani (33 individuals).

As shown in this article, Saudi executions can be rather brutal:

Up to May 2019, according to the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights, 107 people have been executed in Saudi Arabia with at least 44 being foreign nationals, the majority of whom were convicted of drug related charges.  It is expected that there will be executions of additional  individuals including three Islamic scholars and opposition figures.  In 2018, Saudi Arabia executed 149 people, 124 more people than were executed in the United States over the entire year as shown here:

Let's close with this summary from the SPA press release, justifying the use of the death penalty in this case:

"As they were referred to the judiciary, following establishing accusations against them for committing such crimes, legal deeds against them were issued upholding these accusations and thus verdicts were made to execute them, through corroboration, and carrying out the punishment of waging war on Aziz Mahdi Abdullah Al Rafi Al-Amri  and  Khaled Abdulkarim Saleh Al-Tuwaijri.    

The verdicts were ratified by the pertinent court of appeals as well as the supreme court and a royal order was issued to carry out the legally approved sentences, following verifying the accusations with the culprits.

Executions have taken place, accordingly, in various regions of the Kingdom, on Tuesday April 23, 2019.

As it announces that, the Ministry of Interior reiterates that this country will not desist of deterring anyone who may think of trying to harm its security or stability as well as the nationals or the residents, either, on its territories, adding that it is resolutely and firmly continuing to seek justice through carrying out the rules of the sacred Sharia, on anyone who may crosses the set limits of Allah, it also warns against anyone whose self may rationalize to him committing such terrorist and criminal acts, that the Sharia prescribed punishments shall be imposed upon him/her."
As you can see, the United States and Saudi Arabia have more in common than one might think.  The use of the death penalty certainly does create interesting bedfellows, doesn't it?

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